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 Saturday, August 19
Junior shatters Michigan qualifying record
 
 Associated Press

Saturday, Aug. 19
On Saturday, Valvoline finally announce what everyone has known for months -- that they will sponsor Johnny Benson and the 10 car during the 2001 season. But during the press conference they announced a unique twist concerning Valvoline and the ownership of the 10 car.

Two young drivers with two familiar names are trying to make their Winston Cup debuts at Michigan. Andy Houston, who sits in the Craftsman Truck Series standings, sits behind the wheel of a second Cal Wells' car. While a third Earnhardt, Kerry, hits the track with an assist from Dave Marcis -- the same man who helped father Dale get his career off the ground two decades ago.

And after spending the past two races on the sidelines, Jeremy Mayfield returns to the seat of the 12 car this weekend. Mayfield suffered a concussion during crash in practice for the Brickyard 400 at Indy 14 days ago. He hasn't tested in a race since, but did test his equilibrium by roller skating this week.
BROOKLYN, Mich. -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the pole for the Pepsi 400 in historic fashion, becoming the first NASCAR Winston Cup driver to top 190 mph in qualifying at Michigan Speedway.

Earnhardt Jr., one of three Earnhardts attempting to qualify for Sunday's race, ran a lap Friday at 191.149 mph in his Chevrolet Monte Carlo. He was one of three drivers to top the mark of 189.883 mph on the 2-mile track set by Bobby Labonte on June 6.

This was the 13th time this season that a track record has been broken in qualifying, including both Michigan races.

Dale Jarrett, who had a lap at 191.093 mph in practice, ran a qualifying lap of 189.959 mph in a Ford Taurus and will start next to Earnhardt Jr. on the outside of the front row. Rick Mast qualified third at 189.898 mph in a Pontiac Grand Prix.

"The car was real comfortable," Earnhardt said. "We found something late in practice that really hooked the car up. We went through a bunch of shocks and made some decisions.

"It's good. That was a good lap."

Activity at the speedway was pushed back all day because of morning rain. It was partly cloudy when qualifying began at 3:45 p.m. ET, but the sky continued to clear as the session progressed.

"The track was 98 degrees when we made our lap in practice," said Earnhardt, whose car was the seventh out during qualifying. "It was 112 in qualifying. That makes a big difference. I think that's probably where it felt different. But that was as good as the car was going to be."

Pole winners have won 13 times in the 62 Winston Cup races at Michigan.

Labonte, the last Winston Cup driver to win from the pole at Michigan, qualified fifth at 189.648 mph. Tony Stewart, who won the rain-shortened Kmart 400 in June on the high-banked oval, qualified 19th at 188.255.

But starting up front doesn't always matter to Stewart. He started 28th in the June race, the farthest back any winner has started at Michigan.

"I've never qualified well here, but I've raced well," Stewart said. "Still, I'm in a better mood now than the last time I qualified here."

Steve Park, winner of last week's road race in Watkins Glen, N.Y., qualified 15th at 189.056.

"We thought with a tuneup, we'd be a little faster," Park said. "It's a good race car."

Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. pumps his fist after his Pepsi 400 pole-winning run Friday at Michigan Speedway.

Matt Kenseth, who is leading Earnhardt in the race for rookie of the year honors, had a lap at 187.427 and failed to qualify. Only the fastest 25 cars make the field in first-round qualifying.

Kenseth, who has 245 rookie points, 23 more than Earnhardt, has more top-five and top-10 finishes through the first 21 races this season. But Earnhardt has won two poles -- to none for Kenseth -- and has won two races compared with one for Kenseth.

Earnhardt won the 500-mile race in Fort Worth, Texas, in April and the 400-miler in Richmond, Va., in May. Kenseth won the Coca-Cola 600 at Concord, N.C., in May.

Earnhardt's famous father, Dale, and brother, Kerry Earnhardt each made the field on Saturday. Kerry clocked a speed of 188.605 mph to earn the 27th spot on the grid, while his father took a provisional starting spot in 37th. Dale was 33rd-fastest Friday with a lap of 187.329. Kerry was 40th after a lap of 186.950.

Darrell Waltrip, the sentimental favorite this weekend, got a rousing round of applause from the fans on hand. Waltrip, retiring after this season, had a lap of 186.417 in his attempt for one last run at Michigan. Out of provisionals, he missed the race on Saturday when his speed of 186.766 wasn't good enough to make the field on speed.

"The last three times I've tried to qualify here, it's been like this," Waltrip said. "And we've never fixed the problem."

Hut Stricklin earned the 26th position on speed Saturday, while rookie Matt Kenseth will start 28th.

The purse for Sunday's race will be $2.1 million, the largest ever offered for an August race at Michigan. It was $1.9 million in 1999. A purse of $2.3 million was offered for the June race won by Stewart.
 


ALSO SEE
Pepsi 400 lineup

Yocum: Generation Xers lead 2000's youth movement

Nadeau proving to be more than junior partner at Hendricks Motorsports

Three Es ready for family affair at Michigan

Valvoline buys a stake in Benson's No. 10 team

Notebook: Mayfield still fast in return to action

Weber: Labonte loves Michigan

Dunlap: Labonte leads 'em into last leg

Pepsi 400 Breakdown



AUDIO/VIDEO
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 Dale Earnhardt Jr. takes the pole in Michigan.
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RealVideo: 56.6 | ISDN | T1

 Dale Earnhardt Jr. talks about coming back strong to win the pole.
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audio
 Dale Jarrett says it was a good effort despite being slippery track conditions.
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 Bobby Labonte pushed his car to the limit.
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 Tony Stewart says the incident with Jeff Gordon is behind him.
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 Jeff Gordon is focused on doing his job.
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 Things heated up for Ricky Rudd and his crew.
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 Kerry Earnhardt is disappointed not to qualify.
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